Hormonal contraceptives often get either a bad or good rep for women who lift. But what does the current literature show? Are hormonal contraceptives potentially standing in the way of your gains, or could they potentially enhance resistance training adaptations? Or neither?
What did they test? The authors examined the current literature on the effect of hormonal contraceptives on strength, power and hypertrophy.
What did they find? Hormonal contraceptives did not seem to have any major effect (positive or negative) on muscle gains.
What does it mean for you? You should not worry too much about the use of hormonal contraceptives affecting your gains in any sort of way.
What’s the Problem?
Hormonal contraceptives are medications or devices that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. These hormones are usually synthetic versions of the ones your body naturally produces and they work in a few different ways to prevent pregnancy.
Preventing Ovulation: In a typical menstrual cycle, a woman's ovaries release an egg (ovulation). Hormonal contraceptives can stop this from happening, which means there's no egg for sperm to fertilize.
Thickening Cervical Mucus: Hormonal contraceptives can thicken mucus in one’s cervix. This makes it difficult for sperm to swim through the cervix and reach an egg.
Thin Uterine Lining: Some hormonal contraceptives make the lining of your uterus lighter, making it less likely for a fertilized egg to attach and grow.